About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Connecting the dots in the tech ecosystem

What makes startups successful? How do ecosystems help them grow? This is the million dollar question for investors, policy makers and entrepreneurs. Networks - who you know, who invested in you and who mentored you - are considered to play a major role. To understand this, we are currently working with Endeavor Insight and the UCL’s Big Data Institute to untangle which connections drive startup growth.

Why we need another startup ecosystem project

There are three gaps in our understanding of the ecosystems:

  1. Many say networks are key for startups and tech clusters to grow; but there’s very little evidence around it.
  2. We lack comparative data to compare different cities. Without a benchmark, results are not as insightful.
  3. Many studies rely on data that is outdated. To understand the rapidly changing tech clusters we need more timely data.

What we've done so far

We expanded a novel method that Endeavor Insight already piloted in New York City, and busted various myths about tech entrepreneurs. We're now working on cracking the networks in the UK, starting with the Golden Triangle (London, Oxford and Cambridge).

In order to do this, we interviewed more than 600 founders of tech companies in London, Oxford and Cambridge and combined their inputs with big data sources. Using this data, we will create interactive maps that will show the web of connections between the tech companies. The connections include: mentorship, investments, inspirations, former employee spinouts, serial entrepreneurship.

This map shows the connections of AppNexus, created by Endeavor Insight. Source: NYC Tech Map

Some of the questions we want to answer

  • What are the hidden networks behind tech in the Golden Triangle?
  • How have the networks developed over time?
  • Who are the most influential companies?

Stay tuned

We will release interactive network maps and a report on the key dynamics of tech entrepreneurs in London, Oxford and Cambridge in the summer of 2016.

Mapping 100 cities across the world

This project is part of a large international initiative with the Global Entrepreneurship Research Network (GERN) and the Global Entrepreneurship week (GEW) to create the largest open-source database on entrepreneurship ecosystems. A total of 20 cities will be mapped by the end of 2016, including not only NYC and the Golden Triangle but also Toronto, Sao Paolo and Singapore.

How to include your city

We will create an open method guide to empower other cities to create entrepreneurship network maps. If you want to be one of the 100 cities mapped over the next five years, get in touch.

This project is funded by Nesta, University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University, Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Oxford Trust, UCL Big Data Institute, OBN and the Oxford Academic Health Science Network.

We also had great support from key partners including Tech City UK, Capital Enterprise and ideaSpace.

Image courtesy of GWP via flickr, CC by 2.0 


Elina Gaillard

Elina Gaillard

Elina Gaillard

Researcher, Startups and Entrepreneurship

Elina worked with the Startups and Entrepreneurship team at Nesta. Her focus was on supporting high-growth entrepreneurship through actionable research on the entrepreneurial ecosystem…

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Valerie Mocker

Valerie Mocker

Valerie Mocker

Director, Development & European Digital Policy

Valerie and her team focused on helping policy makers, corporates, entrepreneurs and society make the most of the digital transformation.

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